The Day Everything Went Wrong
It's a beautiful, sunny, fresh Thursday morning. And by fresh, I mean truly fresh, not out-in-the-country-sheep-poop-in-the-air fresh. Was it truly only a week ago that I sat in this same dining chair on my soggy bum surrounded by soggy buns? Hold on - I'm going to need another cup of coffee before I can revisit this trauma.
I have been known, perhaps more often than I'd like to admit, to take on more than a reasonable human being would or should. This is perhaps evidenced best in starting up a new business three months after moving to a new country. Is that really so crazy? So far, it has been a brilliant, if exhausting, experience, and it has been my pleasure to make a whole slew of cakes for a lot of amazing people. Still, I really wanted to "get out there," and connect with local communities more. I also wanted to test the market scene to see if it was worth pursuing and investing time and money into. Hence, when asked to be a trader in a local high school's summer fete, I did what I do best, for better or worse, and said yes.
Gut Gurgles & Wind
Now, as you get to know me, you'll often hear reference to my gut gurgles. These are not the gurgles I get when I've had an especially fibrous dinner, rather the insistent nagging of a wiser, more intuitive, and usually-correct subconscious Dee. I got these gurgles when I first started conversations about participating in the fete, especially when simple questions such as what time it started and ended could not be easily answered. Uh, what? How do you not know that?!
Blargh. Okay. So I have been trying to be less tightly-wound for health and quality of life reasons. Also, I have noticed that compared to my control-freak, perfectionist, overly-organized, and absurdly-analytical self, the general Irish populace is rather chill. I thought it was just my beloved Mr. QBF who approached every situation with, "We'll see," and "It's grand," but no. It's an island-wide chill that is both refreshing and, at times, infuriating. So, deep breath. Weeks to go. No rush. It'll be grand!
But whoa was it not grand. It was spectacularly shite. You see, the week of the event, it was revealed that the fete was an outdoor event. Upon learning this rather valuable nugget of information, I asked Mr. QBF to check the weather. He doesn't have mystical weather-telling powers. He checks the same way that I would - via a phone app. And yet, it feels luxurious to have my own personal weatherman, so I always ask. He looks. He winces. He turns to me and says, "It will be grand," with a slightly rising and questioning intonation that is less than convincing. Turns out, after 3 weeks of storybook summer weather, Storm Hector was about to lay down a whole lot of hate.
Mr. QBF assured me that the gale force winds that were throwing weighted billboards and probably a few sheep about were to die down long before the evening of June 14th, the evening of the fete. They did, sorta.
After a week of baking, packaging, and planning, I accepted the challenge of fitting hundreds of bakes, along with tables and displays into our wee hatchback. Upon arrival, we were advised that we could set up next to the free tray bakes and coffee/tea station. HOLD ON. You're giving away bakes for FREE?! Not impressed. I looked at the large open astro-turf field. I looked at the darkening gray skies. I felt the gurgles. But we were there and we persisted.
We began setting up. It was clear that this was a small-scale event, which was fine. As long as the weather held out and the people showed up, it would still be a great learning experience no matter what (she said through determinedly-positive clenched teeth). Then Hector, with all of his haughty, hateful wind came. Business cards flew across the field. Lids flew off boxes filled with cupcakes. And then, EVERYTHING blew over. The shelves with hundreds of painstakingly decorated cookies. The absurdly expensive acrylic display stands. Mr. QBF chased after the parts of macaron stand that had spun off like so many discuses thrown by angry Olympian gods, and subsequently, pulled a back -muscle in the process.
Again, I thought, pack up. Go home. Accept defeat. But, one other key feature you'll learn about me as we go on is that I HATE to disappoint. Also, pride is most certainly the deadly sin I tango with the most. Gluttony is a close second, though. I changed the layout of my table completely. I languished that the perfectly beautiful and elegant table I had designed in my wondrously non-windy living room would not be achieved on this day. I quickly learned that astro-turf is filled with rather bouncy sand and therefore open containers of goods should go nowhere near it. Still, we were there. Goods were laid out. We smiled at the ten or so people that came by and perused. Three words twirled around my head. Not. Worth. It. I smiled and pretended to be perfectly bubbly and positive, following some valuable advice I'd received as an infomercial tele-salesperson - Fake it til you make it.
Mr. QBF and I hugged, even as we cringed at the ever-darkening sky. Then, I spotted his older sister's beautiful mane of curly red lockes from a distance. Mr. QBF's older sister, mum, and aunt had come out, armed with orders from friends and coworkers to fill. I nearly cried as they piled goods into their bags, our sole customers apart from two wee babes who came for two buns but only had enough money for one, and thus received a buy one, get one deal. I thought I might actually be crying when I saw the first droplets appear on the cookie gift boxes. Then, I realized my tear ducts do not have that spray pattern nor projection. Then, it BUCKETED.
My first thought: OH. SHIT.
My second thought: Don't lose your shit.
All other thoughts and actions revolved around prioritizing what items could withstand rain the longest, from the hundreds of delicate macaron cookies to the all the pre-packaged items in fully-compostable packaging, and getting them boxed back up and out of the rain as quickly as possible. Without the umbrella's of Mr. QBF's saintly family, all would have been lost. As it was, a large bin of macaron and a tray of cake truffles were binned. Everything crammed back into the wee hatchback, Mr. QBF and I sat, entirely sodden, for five minutes before we even dared turn on the engine and drive away.
Funny thing is, I didn't cry once. The Korean Rage (another endearing trait of mine I pray you don't get to know) didn't emerge. This is miracle-worthy considering that same day I broke my hipster-hand-crank coffee grinder and was thus, decaffeinated. I was disappointed, but mostly, I was determined.
I went straight home, sat in my droopy, soggy clothes, and began a snowball of social networking declaring baked goods available for sale the next day. And you know what- it was a raving success. Thanks to the amazing support and networking of another treasured family member, Grace, and the local community, we sold out of cupcakes and macaron the next day. And, the following Monday, Niall's Aunt sold out of the cookies at her school's event.
- Markets aren't for me. For food items, the amount of work put into making everything, packaging everything, then transporting everything, paying for the space, setting it all up, hoping to sell it, hoping the weather holds if outdoor, following time/temp and hygiene practices, packing it all back up, and having left overs is not worth it.
Even saying that run-on sentence out loud isn't worth it.
- Having an open selling day once a week from the home bakery might work. People loved stopping in and getting a little of this and a little of that and I received many rave reviews in the days following. This business is totes going to work.
- My fully-compostable packaging won't melt after getting a lot wet. Whew!
- Every great achievement is the work of many people. From Mr. QBF who endured that fete after a long day at his job to his sister, mum, and aunty who should probably open their own marketing firm for all the customers they got us in the end, to Grace and the Dromara community who came to the rescue. Oh, and to our dear friends Brendan and Lindsey who arrived just in time to see us sprinting through torrential rain with baked goods in hand and jumped right in. They never even got a bun out it.
- Sand. Never. Goes. Away. I am still finding astro-turf sand in the most unlikely of places.
- Soggy clothes chafe, also in the most unlikely of places.
From tragedy to triumph! What was your lowest and highest point of the week?